Reflections on November’s Chinese auctions from an online bidder’s point of view

online auctions3  We wrote a few weeks ago about the plethora of Chinese art auctions during November, the difficulties of getting around them all and our decision to, instead, bid online ( Well, it has certainly been a highly instructive experience to attempt to do all our buying online and we thought it might be interesting to record our very mixed experiences.

In all, we bid on just nine auctions, two of which we viewed and the balance viewed either online or from a catalogue supplied by the auctioneers. Bidding was generally successful in digital terms although there some notable failures. We registered on Dreweatts own site for their Asian Sale at Castle Donnington. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. We were interested in the section in which the Peter Arlidge Collection of Song ceramics was to sold and had identified three lots we were determined to buy. Horror of horrors, when we depressed the BID button, absolutely nothing happened and it was clear our bids were not registering at all. We rebooted and re-registered but the bids we made took so long to register that the lots were sold before we could get into the running. In one instance, by the time our bid of £110 was registered on the screen, bidding had already reach £700! We got nothing and were very disappointed . . .

We successfully bid in the Lyon & Turnbull London sale (having previously viewed it) although there was anasty shock using the Invaluable site: after just three lots (none of which we bid on) an electronic notice flashed up on the screen saying se had exhausted our £10,000 credit limit! I had a sudden fear that our feline friend had wandered across the keyboard and bid on our behalf! Fortuitously, I had L&T’s number in London and called them and they reinstated our ability to bid with a new £50,000 limit.

Later in the week, we viewed a sale at Borders Auctions in Hawick which had a couple of dozen serious Chinese interest items. The night before the sale we filed a dozen Autobids with This turned out to be a lucky move as the connection with the auction came and went with multiple freezes which lasted for five or ten minutes a time. In the event, we got everything we wanted using our recorded auto-bids. If we had relied on bidding live we might have just got half of them.

The other sales we participated in went much more smoothly. Having bid successfully, of course, we then had the challenge of getting our lots back to our location in the Scottish Borders. We found the prices quoted by The-Saleroom’s affiliate Mailboxes Etc far too expensive: on one three-figure lot bought from Dukes, the cost of packing and carriage exceeded the cost of the lot itself. We got a much more competitive price from the specialist fine art carriers Aardvark which was a third of that quoted by Mailboxes Etc. From a couple of the houses, we drove and collected ourselves which was cheaper and less stressful.

Our verdict on the success or otherwise of our experimental new strategy has to be that physical attendance at a sale where there are items of even modest interest has to be a must. We shall probably bid in fewer auctions, but we shall try to get there ourselves and simply put the miles on the clock rather than hours behind the screen!

Our favorites from Asian Art in London . . .

Wandering around Asian Art in London two weeks ago, we saw a good many desirable things which we would have loved to take home. Here is our selection of what we thought of as the most desirable things to grace our own halls. If we only had the cash, of course!

The first two were found at Ben Janssen’s in Jermyn Street where he had his usual selection of captivating small objects, supplemented by an excellent catalogue. His catalogues go straight to my reference shelves as soon as I get home . . .


A bronze incense burner in the form of an elephant

Ming dynasty, 16th – 17th century

Height: 6 1/2 inches, 16.5 cm

Length: 6 1/2 inches, 16.5 cm

A bronze incense burner in the form of an elephant, standing foursquare with its head turned back and its trunk curled between the tusks. The separately cast, openwork cover is decorated with bunched lotus flowers. The elephant wears a howdah engraved with lotus flowers and is richly attired with caparisons composed of ‘jewelled’ straps and tassels. The rim of the cover is engraved with a six-character mark of Xuande (Da Ming Xuande Nian Zi). The elephant’s fittings were originally inlaid in semi-precious stones.

The elephant (xiang) is known to have existed in China during the Bronze Age. Proof that the animal was a popular subject in art from very early times is provided most spectacularly by a large Shang dynasty zun (12th – 11th century BC) in the form of an elephant in the collection of the Musée Guimet in Paris.[ The elephant became extinct in China soon afterwards, but the animal’s enduring popularity as a decorative motif symbolising strength and high moral standards[ is evident from the many extant representations in practically all available materials in Chinese art. A richly caparisoned elephant is often seen in the presence of the Emperor, either as a bearer of tribute gift or as an exotic animal in the Emperor’s menagerie. The hollow body and the openwork cover suggest that this bronze elephant was designed as an incense burner. Although the cover of the present incense burner is engraved with the six-character mark of the emperor Xuande, who reigned from 1425 to 1435, the piece is unlikely to date from that period, but the compactness of the animal and the fine detail of the casting certainly suggests a Ming dynasty date, albeit of a somewhat later period.


We just love the restrained elegance and delicate proportions of this miniature huanghuali table with marble top which is late Ming to early Qing dynasty, 17th – 18th century.

Length: 13 inches, 33 cm

Width: 5 3/4 inches, 14.7 cm

Height: 5 1/8 inches, 13 cm

It is a miniature table made of huanghuali, supported on two pairs of recessed legs located at both ends. The rectangular top is inlaid with a slab of marble and has everted flanges above a shaped, beaded apron. The frontward curving legs are supported by spandrels carved with chi dragons in openwork. The marble slab combines whitish and greyish colours, together with some linear red veins. The wood is well polished and well patinated.

  • This piece is a miniature version of a large qiaotouan table with recessed legs, and embodies all the characteristics of the form.  Similar small table stands with decorative stone panels are shown in the 18th-century illustrations to the novel Jin Ping Mei (‘Flower in a Golden Vase’), where they support the ‘Three Friends of Incense’ – the incense tool vase, incense burner and incense powder box.[1]  Stone panels are especially suitable for incense stands as they resist scorching, and their figuration evokes images that change according to the viewer’s mood or the side from which it is viewed. A comparable 17th-century miniature qiaotouan table made of huanghuali, similarly inlaid with a marble panel on its top, is in the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture.[2]
  • Provenance: the collection of Louise Hawley Stone (1904 – 1997), Toronto, Canada. She was the Royal Ontario Museum’s first volunteer and was also a major donor, fundraiser, Board member and committee chair.

[1] Wang, Shixiang and Evarts, C. Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chinese Art Foundation, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, p. 82

[2] Wang, Shixiang and Evarts, C. op. cit. no. 86, pp. 182-3


We found this highly unusual blue, straw and amber-glazed model of a recumbent buffalo (Tang Dynasty, 8th century) At Littleton & Hennessey in St James’. It is modelled recumbent on a oblong base with its right foreleg outstretched, glazed in blue with straw-glazed highlights, the base glazed in blue and amber. Dimensions: 18.5 cm wide x 12 cm high

Domestic animals were popular subjects in the Tang tombs, and are amongst some of the most charming and playful examples of sancai-pottery. The current buffalo is unusual in that it is depicted recumbent, while most of the buffalo we see are depicted standing. However, a seated mythical beast in the Tenri Sankokan Museum Collection in Nara, Japan, has very similar modelling, with its left front leg tucked underneath, and right foreleg outstretched. Compare also the model of donkey in the Shaanxi History Museum, which is blue-glazed like the current piece.

Provenance: The Sze Yuan Tang Collection (思源堂藏)

You will note we have not given any prices on these outstanding pieces. As the old adage goes, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it!




A charming piece of 18th century eroticism found at Cohen & Cohen

F38 immortals, 10/9/06, 7:15 PM,  8C, 6000x7279 (0+720), 100%, Custom,  1/25 s, R61.1, G22.9, B25.4

Believe it or not, this amusing and very charming dental study, seen at Cohen & Cohen in Jermyn Street, was regarded at the time as an erotic artefact: somewhat puzzling for most of us who do not find a visit to the dentist in the slightest bit erotic! However, Will Motley has given us a very thorough rundown on this fascinating piece.

Qianlong, c. 1750

Height: 8 ½ inches (21.5cm)

A figural group of a seated Chinese man having his teeth examined by a standing lady, the man wearing a blue coat with white dragon medallions, the woman in a green coat with red flowers; on a base of blue, pink, and white rockwork.

At first it appears to depict no more than intimate grooming rituals such as ear cleaning, drinking, pedicure, or teeth cleaning. However, scenes of this nature had a veiled eroticism that was very evident to the eighteenth century viewer, Chinese or Western. In fact, these scenes would have been quite shocking to a Chinese viewer—for example, the naked man’s foot in Item 6.2 or the exposed belly and chest in 6.4 would be very risqué in a society where any form of public nakedness was strongly censured. The man’s queue (pigtail) being coiled round his head in this fashion symbolised sensuality. (It is found also in Item 6.2) In all of them, the woman is portrayed as a beauty and the man is always smiling with pleasures.

Western connoisseurs were also used to this sort of coded eroticism; eighteenth-century pastoralism was rich in symbols for love and wooing that filled the paintings of Lancret, Watteau, and others. These scenes often then appeared on export porcelain. Examples include the popular ‘valentine’ pattern, with its flaming hearts burning on an altar of love, cooing doves, drawn back curtains with garlands of flowers, and so on. Another image found in many variations is of a birdcatcher: a woman with an empty cage beside a man holding a bird, which stands for the woman’s virtue. Classical mythology was also widely used as an excuse for depictions of nudity, as seen in the ‘Judgement of Paris’ or the ‘Choice of Hercules’. So these exotic groups would have been very popular with the gentleman collector in Western Europe, stored in a locked cabinet and brought out to show his close friends on special occasions. More explicit items are also known, mainly paintings of erotic scenes on the inside of the lids of snuff boxes.

Such groups were probably private commissions or purchases by supercargoes from the shops in Canton, sold ‘under the counter’ to special customers. They are very rare but, judging by the design of the base or the details of the enamelling, it seems that some of them were made together in a small series. Differences in enamelling indicate that sets were made over a period of about twenty years, from about 1750 to 1770. The ear-cleaning group is much more common than the others and most examples seem to be a bit later than the rest. A separate series of ‘music lesson’ figures of an earlier date is also known; the pieces are of very high quality and even rarer, so they were probably only made at one time (see Sargent 1991, p118).

F20 dentist group 02, 10/9/06, 7:26 PM, 8C, 6000x7327 (0+672), 100%, Custom, 1/25 s, R61.1, G22.9, B25.4

Buyer pays over a million pounds for doucai jar at Woolley & Wallis


The jar was displayed last week at Woolley & Wallis’ new London office in Clifford Street, Mayfair      Photo by Paul Harris

Hopes at Woolley & Wallis today were firmly focused on Lot 88 in their Asian Art sale. And rightly so, as it turned out. The little jar – Yongzheng with cover – well exceeded the estimate of £100,000-200,000 to get a closing bid of £880,000. The buyer will be forking out well over a million pounds by the time buyer’s premium and VAT is taken into account. Altgether not a bad result for something bought in 1946 for just nine pounds, ten shillings!

Woolley & Wallis described it thus in their catalogue: SIX CHARACTER YONGZHENG MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE AND OF THE PERIOD 1723-35. The ovoid body gently tapering at the foot, delicately painted in underglaze blue with two scaly yinglong (winged dragons) in flight amongst scrolling clouds, a band of scalloped lappets to the shoulder and foot embellished with doucai enamels, the circular flattened cover with a single yinglong within concentric bands, the base with a paper label for Bluett & Sons, London, 11cm across, 10.4cm high. (2)

Provenance: a British private collection. Purchased from Bluett & Sons, London, 1st May 1946, for £9:10.

Cf. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, p.233, no.214, where a comparable jar and cover from the Yongzheng reign is illustrated. A jar without a cover in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum is illustrated in A Hougron’s publication, La Céramique chinoise ancienne, p.212. For a tian jar dating to the Chenghua period after which this example is modelled, see the Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, The Legacy of Chenghua, Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, p.310, no.C111; another from the Percival David Foundation is illustrated by R Scott & S Pierson in Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, p.36, no.17. For an example with a cover sold at Sotheby & Co, see The Collection of W W Winkworth Esq, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Bronzes, 12th December 1972, lot 119, purchased by H Moss for £580.

來源:英國私人收藏,1946年5月1日以£9.10的價格購於Bluett & Son, London

北京故宮博物館有一例雍正仿成化紋飾的鬥彩應龍蓋罐刻字比較,見《故宮博物院文物珍品大系——五彩·鬥彩》香港,2008,頁233,圖214;另見英國維多利亞及阿爾伯特博物館藏一例同一紋飾無蓋鬥彩應龍罐,詳見A Hougron’s publication著,《 La Céramique chinoise ancienne》,頁212.

W W Winkworth Esq家族亦舊藏一件鬥彩應龍紋罐(蓋可能後配),後於蘇富比拍賣行于1972年12月12日售出·編號119.當時由Hugh Moss以£580的价格购得。

Chiswick Auctions to sell Buckman Collection


Bernard Buckman (1910 – 1991). Image © Sophie Baker

The first one hundred and twenty-one lots (1-120) from Chiswick Auctions’ Monday ASIAN ART sale (14 November 2016) are from the collection of distinguished sinophile Bernard Buckman (1910 – 1991).

Buckman was a central figure in shaping economic relations with China and the West in the second half of the 20th Century. Following the Moscow Economic Summit of 1953, Buckman traveled to Beijing on an icebreaker mission in June and July of that year. As one of three mission leaders representing sixteen companies, he helped to negotiate £15 million of trade deals with China, representing a significant breakthrough in Anglo-Sino trade that had previously been non-existent since the founding of the PRC in 1949.

Buckman was Chairman of a British Group of Companies trading in metal, minerals, chemicals, machinery and light industrial products which formed part of the ground-breaking ‘48 Group’ of British companies allowed to trade with China. In 1972 he set up his own company, Wogen Resources. A silver salver inscribed to him from the company in 1986 is presented as lot 106 in the sale. Travelling to China more than fifty times in his lifetime, once a year since 1953 and twice a year since 1967, Buckman gained a privileged view of China and access to its leaders at the highest levels. In 1979 he travelled to China as the personal guest of Vice Premier Wang Zhen (1903 – 1993).

chiswickLot 45 Carved jade horse and monkey group

His love of China’s culture, past and present, led him to build his collection of Chinese art and indeed the collection ranges from pottery sculptures dating from the Han Dynasty (lot 109) and jades of the Ming Dynasty (lots 44-45), to works created within his own lifetime including a masterpiece by the doyenne of 20th Century Chinese ink painting, Qi Baishi (1864 – 1957) (lot 84) as well as fine porcelain from Jingdezhen dated 1955 (lot 101). The highly personal collection, built up at a time when few Westerners had access to China, is testament to a lifetime commitment to China and its people and ranges in its content from scholar’s objects to snuff bottles, ivories, jades and hardstones.

Clearly for Buckman the relationship between his business and artistic interests were symbiotic. Notes for a lecture given by Buckman in 1983 (included within lot 102) demonstrate his strong belief in the cultural achievements of China past and present, and a prescient belief in the potential of the country’s bright economic future, beliefs strongly at odds with the anti-Chinese rhetoric of the Western media prevalent at the time. Aside from his business interests, Buckman was a Governor of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and a scholarship in his name was created posthumously in his honour.

During his lifetime he was acquainted with many important Chinese cultural figures. A piece of calligraphy offered in the sale (lot 88), was inscribed and presented to Buckman to mark the passing of his eightieth year by the members of the Chinese Imperial family, Pu Zuo (1918 – 2001). Whilst the collection is diverse in terms of dates and materials it clearly follows a coherent vision of its creator. One key theme which draws together this diverse collection is Buckman’s interest in the miniature.


Lot 110 Carved ivory figure of Liu Ji

The collection comprises thirty-two lots of snuff bottles, two miniature turquoise boy carvings (lot 38), two miniature jade landscape carved plaques (lots 69-70), a miniature landscape between clamshells carved in ivory (lot 112), two miniature nut carvings of boats (lot 78), a miniature bamboo parfumier (lot 81), a miniature turquoise scholar’s rock (lot 82), a miniature altar table (lot 92) and a collection of miniature vases (lot 97). The reasons for this interest are uncertain but the collection clearly exemplifies both Buckman’s personal taste and the network of connections to which he belonged. Perhaps most importantly, however, the collection also represents a poignant testament to one man’s hugely important life work to bring the world together economically, but also culturally through a dedication to Sino-British exchange of goods, and also ideas.


Lot 82 A turquoise miniature scholar’s rock





Asian Art in London IV Highlights of AAL in pictures

ed-saunders-studio-recreation-china-exchange Re-creation of the studio of William Saunders in Shanghai at the exhibition LIFE IN QING DYNASTY SHANGHAI: THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF WILLIAM SAUNDERS which is on at The China Exchange in London’s Gerrard Street until November 12. The photographs in the exhibtion were collected by Stephan Loewentheil and represents, in his own words, ‘a valuable resource for the study of China before industrialisation changed it forever. Saunders moved from England and opened his studio in Shanghai in 1862. Loewentheil is the founder and President of the 19th century Rare Book & Photograph Shop in New York        Photograph by Paul Harris

ed-paul-martin-turquoise-frog-at-olympia Dealer Paul Martin exhibiting at The Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair had this French gilt-bronze mounted Chinese turquoise porcelain frog censer from the Kangxi period, mounted together with two spoons. The asking price is £9,500. Rather more pricey at £65,000 was a pair of Qianlong period silk wall hangings (Section shown below) finely decorated with figures in landscapes, hunting and fishing, interiors and formal meetings, horse riding and sailing.    Photographs by Paul Harris



 Also showing at Olympia was Kevin Page Oriental Art who had some massive Cantonese vases.              Photograph by Paul Harris

ed-fleur-de-lys-ivory-water-buffalo At Fleur de Lys in Kensington Church Street we spotted this delightful Chinese ivory carving of a water buffalo.    Photograph by Paul Harris


Clifford Street is a busy hangout for Chinese art buyers with top drawer premises of Eskenazi and, opposite, above, the beautifully lit and tastefully laid out display at Berwald Oriental Art. Below, Roger Keverne’s display of sancai glaze Tang Dynasty pottery.                 Photographs by Paul Harris


And, finally, very slightly off subject for this site, but, nevertheless an event we never miss is Raquelle Azran’s showing of Vietnamese art in Mason’s Yard. We were enchanted by this carved lacquer piece by Tran Huu Chat titled Highlands Ritual and which, despite its age, was available for a very reasonable £4,500 or so. If I wasn’t paying for a new warehouse next week, I would have snapped it up!

Photograph by Paul Harris


Asian Art in London III Jorge Welsh puts on impressive Chinese export ware show


One’s first impression of this exhibition, associated with Asian Art in London and held at Jorge Welsh’s Kensington Church Street Gallery, is of glittering, shiny riches. The brightly lit array of Chinese export ware is breathtaking and leads one to muse how it has been possible to gather together such a cohesive collection of apparently perfect beautiful things.

This exhibition A Time and A Place: Views and Perspectives on Chinese Export Art  focuses on those views and perspectives that show buildings in their settings extending chronologically through the late-17th until the late 19th century, and covering a range of works of art that are illustrative of interest in the subject as a type of cultural expression. While researching for the exhibition and the catalogue, a number of sources such as prints and engravings, for previously unidentified scenes painted in Chinese porcelain were discovered and are in some cases, presented for the first time alongside the actual pieces.

There is a diverse range of works of art, ranging from individual plates, dinner services, tea sets, punch bowls, mugs, snuff boxes, urns, cisterns, vases, and plaques made in porcelain, to folding fans, painted ivory plaques, lacquer, and canvas. These pieces are hybrid objects, both Chinese and European, becoming historical testimonies of artistic interactions between the two cultures.

The exhibition contains over 140 porcelains, paintings and works of art, real treasures of Chinese export art. Below we illustrate just two examples from the show. punch-bowl_jorge-welsh-works-of-art_other-side

Punch Bowl

Qing dynasty

Qianlong period (1736-1795)

  1. 1790

Porcelain decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gold

  1. 16.5 cm Ø 38 cm


Panel with a view of Macao

Qing dynasty


First half of 18th century

Wood lacquered in black and decorated with gold lacquer

  1. 85.5 cm W. 59 cm

The show continues until November 11.


Asian Art in London II The Oriental Ceramic Society Exhibition is a stunner!


Far and away, our favourite absolute highlight of AAL has been The Oriental Ceramic Society display in New Bond Street, courtesy of Sotheby’s, CHINA WITHOUT DRAGONS: RARE PIECES FROM ORIENTAL CERAMIC SOCIETY MEMBERS. There have been some absolutely startling pieces of ceramic art on show from earliest times to the late 20th century. The only problem with this stunning exhibition as we see  it is that it is on for such a short time – just a few days, closing November 9. Surely it would have been possible to allow as many people as possible to view these unique pieces during the whole course of AAL?

Here, anyway, are our firm favourites:

ed-ocs-at-sothebys-sancai-horse-figureExtraordinary! The only word for this remarkable object which is catalogued as a pottery zodiac figure of a horse in sancai glaze ‘Tang dynasty 7th or 8th century’. Well, we have certainly never seen anything like this before! There is evidence of a sense of humour here which is not exactly typical of Tang . . .

ed-ocs-at-sothebys-kangxi-blackamoor                    A glazed biscuit porcelain figure of a black attendant standing on a lotus leaf. Late Kangxi and formerly in the Rockefeller collections.

ocs-at-sothebys-20th-c-grisaille-pot An outstanding 20th century piece from the Jingdezhen kilns: brushpot painted in grisaille and coloured enamels.

ocs-kiln Well, cute is hardly the word for this one. Apparently, this is a 19th century glazed biscuit pouring vessel in the form of a kiln decorated with butterflies. It is a beautiful piece but it appears to us remarkably modern in its conception and form. It must have been created by a great talent . . .

If you miss the exhibition, you can at least put your name down for the catalogue. It will be published next Spring, 2017, at a pre-publication price of £50. Enquiries by email to It will, however, be sent free of charge to members of The Oriental Ceramic Society. Membership for a UK member costs just £55 so it seems a no-brainer to sign up today and get your catalogue f.o.c.!

Asian Art in London I AAL kicks off but ‘Where are the Chinese?’

ed-roger-keverne-declares-aal-2016-open Asian Art in London Chairman Roger Keverne opens the 2016 event last Thursday evening at The China Exchange  Photo by Paul Harris

It was a chilly evening, in more ways than one, as AAL Chairman Roger Keverne opened this year’s event. He acknowledged difficulties within the trade and the economy but, of course, wished the event and its participants well. The champagne event was held in rather more spartan manner than is normal (previous locations have included the Knightsbridge Mandarian Oriental and The British Museum) It was in the former telephone exchange now known as The China Exchange in London’s Chinatown. The venue might have been lacking in charm (the overlit premises paid no homage to wrinkles) but, at least, the Laurent Premier flowed in the same unlimited quantities as were in evidence at previous events. It was, though, announced that next year’s event will return to the British Museum. This news was met with a heartfelt rousing cheer . . .

Dealers and gallerists reported that the first couple of days of AAL were disappointing. As one dealer in New Bond Street observed, ‘Very quiet. Where are all the Chinese? We’ve seen hardly any.’

I was musing on this as I went down Park Lane last Friday evening en route to the Duton’s (Tianjin, China, auctioneers) party in the Grosvenor House Hotel. As I passed the Aston Martin dealership, I could hardly fail to note that it was full of Chinese. I noted several prominent dealers and collectors (all Chinese, of course) underneath the bonnets, playing with the steering wheels and energetically pushing buttons to the general consternation of the sharply suited sales staff. Others were arguing the toss on sales prices, ‘We need at least £50,000 off that for a deal!’

ed-dutons-exhibit-notice Exhibition poster

A few doors down the road, guests were flooding in to the Duton’s party and exhibition at the Grosvenor House, APPRECIATION OF CHINA. There were more than 100 fine pieces of porcelain on display, many of which probably came from private collections in China, and elsewhere. Half a dozen or so bore red dots next to the descriptions. As the room filled with people, I counted that I was one of ten laowei present (also including Roger Keverne from AAL): the rest, approximately 150, were all Chinese.

ed-dutons-vips-pretty-girl Front rown VIP guests. Duton’s Charman Geng Du, second right Photo Paul Harris

The predominantly male, well suited Chinese businessmen represented a significant cross section of Chinese money: big business, very wealthy collectors and socialites. Many had flown in from Beijing esepecially for the event and a few days spending in London (some had been up the road at Aston Martin’s). After the lengthy introductions and welcomes, the preamble was followed by a charity auction.


Dutons announced that they will fund a London memeorial to 96,000 Chinese who apparently died fighting in the First World War (on the Allied side, of course) and a charity auction followed: some of us had hoped that the glittering objects in the display cases were to be sold in the room. No such luck! The offerings included bottles of wine signed by the VIPs in the front row, and a couple of rather recently produced paintings. Bidding was good humoured and highly competitive.


This is intended to be the first in a number of exhibitions and similar events presaging a move by Duton’s into the UK market. The evening raised several thousand pounds (more than £600 was put in a box that was handed around by, I was told,  ‘Ladies from Buckingham Palace’), although rather more is going to be required for the statue which is to be erected. However, there was rather a lot in terms of assets in the room: representatives of the Dalian Wanda company, who are behind the massive luxury development One Nine Elms City Tower on the banks of the Thames. Raising a relatively small amount should not be too difficult . . .

Watch this space. When the Chinese get their teeth into something, they do not let go. Expect to hear more from Duton’s and don’t doubt the fact that the Chinese are always somewhere around . . .

Further reports on Asian Art in London will be published this week

ed-dutons-the-girls Glitz and glamour at the Duton’s party . . .

Welcome to November and a UK Asian auction virtually every day!

opinion hl

Well, it’s November again and the great annual Asian art fest which launches itself against the background of Asian Art in London. Lectures, openings, book launches and world class exhibitions gather under the direct aegis of AAL. There is, however, an array of events which are rather more loosely associated but which are of massive interest to some collectors, and an awful lot of dealers.

There will be more Asian art auctions this month than in any other month of the year. We have listed no less than 29 on our Asian Auctions Nationwide page on this site. We have maybe missed a couple (just a few auctioneers inexplicably treat the details of their auctions as some sort of dark secret!), but it is clear that over the next 30 days there is virtually an auction of Asian Art in some part of the UK every day. Some days are rather busier than others.

On November 9 the London heavyweights Christie’s and Sotheby’s compete for bidders whilst Gorringes in Lewes and Halls in Shrewsbury have sales further ‘out of town’. The following days Bonhams in London fight it out with Ewbanks and Thomson Roddick, north of the Border. A really difficult day for the avowed enthusiast is November 15 with a Bonhams sale in London; Dreweatts & Bloomsbury at Castle Donnington and day one of Wolley & Wallis’s usual epic 2-day sale in Salisbury (really interesting things in all three sales).

How does a serious enthusuiast keep on top of such a plethora of offerings? Last May, we did a week of sales: Chiswick Auctions on the Monday; Dreweatts & Bloomsbury on the Tuesday; Woolley & Wallis on the Wednesday; and Dukes of Dorchester on the Friday. It was fun, but it was exhausting . . .  and expensive. Six days on the road with a thirsty 4WD diesel knocked up well over 1200 miles and six nights in hotels plus meals brought a total cost, without too much extravagance (well, just a little), of something under £2,000. We did completely fill a Chelsea tractor to the roof with all the seats down but it took a couple of days to recover.

This November we are doing it differently. We have increasingly, this year, bid online. I used to say I would never buy anything I had not handled but, in those days, we were buying porcelain in a market replete with dubious items. However, these days we are buying differently: furniture and decorative items feature higher on our priorities and condition reports from auctioneers are usually very reliable; similarly, they are usually happy to send excellent pictures.

So, this November, as an experiment, we shall stay in our gallery, and newly acquired 4,500 sq ft warehouse, and bid online. We shall be able to cover two or three auctions a day and home in on what we really want. Online buying tends to focus your mind with set budgets, rarely exceeded in the absence of the excitement of the rooms! I also have a sneaking suspicion that often we get things more cheaply when we are not in the rooms . . .

Of course, there is the cost of getting these highly anticipated objects back. But as we have saved a couple of thousand on tripping around the country there is a budget there. Those auctioneers who offer their own packing service are favoured by us (honourable mentions to two highly efficient and reliable firms in the form of Hannams and Eastbourne Auctions) as the ubiquitous Mailboxes, Etc can be pricey, dependent on the branch.

Of course, there are sometimes disappointments when these new treasures arrive not quite as they were fondly imagined. What do we do with them? Pack them up again and send them off to auction, of course. And, we do have a new warehouse to fill . . .